Messaging from U.S. authorities about COVID-19 has been widely divergent. This research aims to clarify popular perceptions of the COVID-19 threat and its effects on victims. In four studies with over 4,100 U.S. participants, we consistently found that people perceive the threat of COVID-19 to be substantially greater than that of several other causes of death to which it has recently been compared, including the seasonal flu and automobile accidents. Participants were less willing to help COVID-19 victims, who they considered (...) riskier to help, more contaminated, and more responsible for their condition. Additionally, politics and demographic factors predicted attitudes about victims of COVID-19 above and beyond moral values; whereas attitudes about the other kinds of victims were primarily predicted by moral values. The results indicate that people perceive COVID-19 as an exceptionally severe disease threat, and despite prosocial inclinations, do not feel safe offering assistance to COVID-19 sufferers. This research has urgent applied significance: the findings are relevant to public health efforts and related marketing campaigns working to address extended damage to society and the economy from the pandemic. In particular, efforts to educate the public about the health impacts of COVID-19, encourage compliance with testing protocols and contact tracing, and support safe, prosocial decision-making and risk assessment, will all benefit from awareness of these findings. The results also suggest approaches, such as engaging people's stable values rather than their politicized perspectives on COVID-19, that may reduce stigma and promote cooperation in response to pandemic threats. (shrink)
Gossip is a subject that has been studied by researchers from an array of disciplines with various foci and methods. We measured the content of language use by members of a competitive sports team across 18 months, integrating qualitative ethnographic methods with quantitative sampling and analysis. We hypothesized that the use of gossip will vary significantly depending on whether it is used for self-serving or group-serving purposes. Our results support a model of gossip derived from multilevel selection theory that expects (...) gossip to serve group-beneficial rules when rewards are partitioned at the group level on a scale that permits mutual monitoring. We integrate our case study with earlier studies of gossip conducted by anthropologists, psychologists, and management researchers. (shrink)
Many evolutionary models assume that behaviors are caused directly by genes. An implication is that behavioral uniformity should be found only in groups that are genetically uniform. Yet, the members of human social groups often behave in a uniform fashion, despite the fact that they are genetically diverse. Behavioral uniformity can occur through a variety of psychological mechanisms and social processes, such as imitation, consensus decision making, or the imposition of social norms. We present a series of models in which (...) genes code for social transmission rules, which in turn govern the behaviors that are adopted. Transmission rules can evolve in randomly formed groups that concentrate phenotypic variation at the between-group level, favoring the evolution of altruistic behaviors and other group-advantageous traits. In addition, a direct bias toward adopting altruistic behaviors can evolve. Our models begin to show how group selection can be a strong force in human evolution, despite the absence of extreme genetic variation among groups. (shrink)
Among the extra-physical aspects of team sports, the ways in which players talk to each other are among the more colorful but understudied dimensions of competition. To contribute an empirical basis for examining the nature of “trash talk,” we present the results of a study of 291 varsity athletes who compete in the top division among US universities. Based on a preliminary review of trash-talk topics among student-athletes, we asked participants to indicate the frequency with which they have communicated or (...) heard others talk about opposing players’ athleticism, playing ability, physical appearance, boyfriends, girlfriends, sexual behavior, parents, and home institution during competitions. Our three main findings are: Trash-talking is most commonly about the proximately important topic of playing ability while ultimately relevant topics such as physical appearance also appear to be common; Men appear to trash-talk significantly more than women, and consistently across topics; and contact sports such as football, hockey, lacrosse, and wrestling are associated with trash talk significantly more than other sports. We also examined whether the anonymity provided by face-masked helmets in “combat sports” was associated with more trash talk than contact sports played without a helmet and found no consistent association with face masks. Our findings highlight the ways in which competitors in physical sporting contests attempt to use language—often in ways that focus on players’ kin or reproductive interests—in pursuit of victory while establishing a baseline for future research into trash-talking. (shrink)
Currencies that are recognized as money cannot be easily distinguished from alternative currencies such as status. Numerous examples demonstrate the need for status to be recognized as a motivator alongside, at least, money. Lea & Webley acknowledge the roles of status; however, a closer focus is warranted.